MenCare: Involved fatherhood leads to gender equality and child development.
Tuesday, 16 June 2015, Nairobi — Encouraging and supporting fathers to play bigger roles in the lives of their children through innovative global health and social initiatives is vital if real gender equality is to be achieved, finds a new MenCare report, State of the World’s Fathers (SOWF).
“Despite the fact that around 80% of the world’s men and boys will become fathers in their lifetime, engaging men in caregiving is only just beginning to find its way onto the global gender equality agenda,” says Wessel van den Berg, Child Rights and Positive Parenting, Sonke Gender Justice.
The SOWF report reveals long-lasting disparities in Africa where women do more unpaid care work than men, which negatively affects women and girls. However, 55 percent of African countries do provide paternity leave, which is higher than the global percentage (47 percent), but the uptake falls short.
“Fathers matter deeply in terms of child development, and they are as biologically hard-wired to provide care as mothers are. Furthermore, fathers with close connections to their children live longer, have fewer health problems, are more productive, and generally happier.
“The involvement of fathers before, during, and after childbirth has been shown to have positive effects on maternal health behaviors, women’s use of maternal and newborn health services, and fathers’ longer-term support and involvement in the lives of their children,” van den Berg adds.
However, despite these benefits, little has been done in the way of research or policy development, either at national or international level, to understand and promote fathers’ involvement. This is especially true of the African continent.
As much of the world celebrates Father’s Day on the 21st of June, the landmark SOWF report reveals that women continue to spend between twice and 10 times longer than men caring for a child or elderly person. These inequalities persist despite the fact that women today make up 40% of the formal global workforce and half of the world’s food producers. While improving year on year, men’s caregiving has not kept pace with women’s overall participation in the job market, and caregiving dynamics across Africa reflect this imbalance. Although a number of international conventions have made reference to men’s caregiving, more needs to be done to redistribute the division of labour equally between men and women, such as providing leave policies for fathers and encouraging them to be used.
Data from Africa suggests that men participate in caregiving practices to varying degrees across countries. The fact that women do more unpaid care work than men has widespread negative effects on women and girls.
Available data in Africa reveals that most couples do not use contraception and many men make the decisions about contraceptive use and family planning as well as greatly influence decisions around abortion. However, other African data seems to contradict this as research found that a varying degree of men (5 to 61 percent) believe that contraception is a women’s responsibility. Men’s presence at prenatal care also ranges vastly – from 14 to 86 percent.
Attitudes about violence against women and children vary greatly by country in Africa, with men becoming more consistently opposed to violence against women and children. African data shows that there are low levels of violence against women during pregnancy, ranging from 2 to 17 percent, but high levels of violence, especially corporal punishment, persist against children – 72 to 94 percent – by both mothers and fathers, who are both equally likely to support it.
Limited evidence also suggests that there is variation in how fathers interact with their children in Africa, with between 10 percent and 56 percent of fathers involved in at least one learning activity with their children.
“Although the data indicates variability across countries, more research needs to be done to determine the reasons for the variability as well as to better understand caregiving practices relevant to Africa. This will help to inform recommendations to transform current caregiving practices in Africa,” says van den Berg.
This first State of the World’s Fathers report reaffirms that fathers matter for children and that caregiving is good for fathers,” says David Wright, East Africa Regional Director for Save the Children, “and with it we want to begin to lay the groundwork to influence future policy and programs in Africa that address the current lack of men’s and boys’ equitable participation in caregiving, and that address rigid ideas about gender – and the harm that these issues bring to women, to children, and to men themselves. Gender equality requires a revolution in the lives of men and boys, not just in Africa but all over the globe, including their full participation in domestic life.”
For more information, interviews, and report assets please contact:
- Alexa Hassink (US-based) | email@example.com
- Rebecca Ladbury (UK-based) | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Elizabeth Muiruri (Kenya-based) | email@example.com
- Wessel van den berg (South Africa-based) | firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Published by MenCare, a global fatherhood campaign, the State of the World Father’s report provides an international snapshot of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving. The report analyses four crucial issues related to fatherhood: unpaid care work in the home; sexual and reproductive health; domestic violence against children and women; and child development.
- Download the full SOWF report here: WWW.SOWF.MEN-CARE.ORG
- MenCare is coordinated globally by Promundo and Sonke Gender Justice and jointly steered by Save the Children, Rutgers, and the MenEngage Alliance.
KEY REPORT FINDINGS:
UNPAID CARE WORK IN THE HOME
While it is increasing, men’s unpaid caregiving has not kept pace with women’s participation in the labor force. The amount of care work done by men varies from country to country and family to family, but nowhere do men and boys contribute equally.
- Women’s time spent and responsibility for unpaid care remains disproportionate to men’s: women spend 2 to 10 times longer, on average, caring for a child or older person than men do.
- Women spend more time on combined paid and unpaid work, including in developed economies: women in OECD countries spend 22 more minutes a day on paid and unpaid care work than men do. The largest disparities are in Latin America, where women spend 6 to 23 more hours a week than men do.
- Women, as compared to men, spend over 3 times as much time on unpaid care work in Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan; nearly 5 times as much in Korea; 8 times as much in South Africa; and nearly 10 times as much in India. Even in Europe, which as a region has achieved the greatest degree of equality, women do 26 hours of domestic and care work on average per week, as compared to 9 hours per week for men.
- The double burden carried by many women reduces their ability to contribute to the household economy, as well as to develop their own skills and talents outside the home. In a study in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 50% of women aged 20 to 24 said that their unpaid responsibilities in the home were the main reason they could not look for paid work.
- Studies from India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia have found that children’s ages and fathers’ marital satisfaction, as well as their relationships with their own fathers, are all important drivers of change.
- Between 61 and 77% of fathers report that they would work less if it meant that they could have more time with their children.
- While maternity leave is now offered in nearly all countries, only 92 offer paternity leave for fathers.
- Iceland seems to be the world champion in men’s use of paternity leave: men there now average 103 days of paid leave. However, women in Iceland still take 3 times more than this. In other countries, fathers only take around 20% of the leave that mothers do.
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS (SRHR) AND MATERNAL, NEWBORN, AND CHILD HEALTH (MNCH)
The report provides evidence that even though unmet sexual and reproductive health needs continue to be the biggest threat to women’s and girls’ health worldwide, men have not been adequately engaged in the solution.
- In the Global South, men’s presence at pre-natal care visits varies greatly, from 96% in the Maldives to only 18% in Burundi. However, fathers around the world are often not closely engaged during pregnancy and are absent at birth and in early infancy, despite evidence to suggest that engaging men and boys can have important benefits for the health of mothers and children.
- Contraception is still seen globally as primarily the responsibility of women. Women account for 75% of the world’s contraceptive use, even though they are half of the population.
- One woman dies every 2 minutes from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Across the globe, 34 of 1,000 babies alive at birth, die before the age of 1, and 46 of 1,000 die before the age of 5.
- The involvement of fathers before, during, and after the birth of a child has been shown to have positive effects on maternal health behaviors, women’s use of maternal and newborn health services, and fathers’ longer-term support and involvement in the lives of their children.
- A recent analysis of research from low- and middle-income countries found that male involvement was significantly associated with improved skilled birth attendance, utilization of post-natal care, and fewer women dying in childbirth.
- In high-income countries, fathers’ presence has been shown to be helpful in encouraging and supporting mothers to breastfeed.
- Fathers’ support also influences women’s decision to immunize their children and to seek care for childhood illnesses.
MEN’S VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN
The report reiterates that the majority of women who suffer violence do so at the hands of an intimate male partner. It examines how the gendered nature of parenting and experiences of violence as children can lead some men to use violence against women and against children in adulthood. The result is that only a minority of children make it to adulthood without experiencing or witnessing some kind of violence in their homes, schools, or communities – often at the hands of adults who are supposed to care for them.
- Approximately 1 in 3 women globally experiences violence at the hands of a male partner in her lifetime – a level that the World Health Organization has called an “epidemic.”
- Research from Norway found that the incidence of violence against women or children in father-dominated homes was 3 times higher than in more equitable homes.
- Gender-based violence (GBV) against pregnant women ranged from 2% in Australia, Cambodia, Denmark, and the Philippines to 14% in Uganda.
- Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, and 60% of children between the ages of 2 and 4 around the world (nearly 1 billion children) are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis.
- The most common form of violence by parents against children is corporal punishment, including physical and humiliating punishment, and it is widespread.
- Approximately 75% of children between the ages of 2 and 14 experience violent discipline in the home in low- and middle-income countries.
- Studies in high-income countries suggest that anywhere between 45 and 70% of children whose mothers are experiencing violence themselves experience physical abuse.
The report finds that children need at least one deeply involved and dedicated caregiver to thrive, and that this can be a man or a woman. Children need care and the world needs men – as biological as well as social fathers – to be part of that care.
- Evolution has left men as deeply biologically wired for emotional connections to children as women are. In other words, children similarly affect the development of both mothers and fathers, just as fathers and mothers affect children.
- Fathers’ involvement has been linked to lower rates of depression, fear, and self-doubt in their young adult children, and it may also protect sons from delinquency.
- Levels of fathers’ involvement in children’s educational activities vary greatly by country: between 10% of fathers in Swaziland and 79% of fathers in Montenegro report being involved in at least one learning activity with their children.
- However non-residence does not equal absence, as fathers often maintain varying degrees of involvement with their children. In the United Kingdom, 87% of non-resident fathers say they have contact with their children, and nearly 50% say that their children stay with them on a regular basis.
POLICY CALLS TO ACTION
- States should adopt and implement parental leave policies for both mothers and fathers that guarantee paid parental leave that is equitable and non-transferable between parents.
- States should adopt and implement policies in the public health sector that promote and support men’s and boys’ involvement, education, and awareness-raising in sexual and reproductive health and rights, men’s involvement in maternal and child health, before and after the child’s birth.
- States should pass and enforce laws to ban physical and humiliating punishment of children and implement the laws through policies that promote non-violent child rearing that involves fathers, mothers, educators, and social workers.
- States should adopt and implement policies that specifically encourage and support fathers’ and caregivers’ involvement in early childhood development, care, and education.